“From the moment where I felt like that I was starting to become a problem and that people felt I was a problem... I received the message, that my ego was what made us lose, that I wanted to take up too much space, and that without me, therefore, we might have won.”
Those are the words of Kylian Mbappe in a very candid interview with L’Equipe published on the eve of the Nations League Finals that will take place during this international break.
Mbappe was speaking primarily about the reaction to his missed penalty during the shoot-out defeat to Switzerland at Euro 2020 but he did touch on a feeling from some quarters questioning his place within the French national team, as crazy as that sounds.
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Kylian Mbappe (PSG) FOOTBALL : PSG vs Clermont Foot 63 - L1 Uber Eats - Paris -

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France have been inconsistent since that disappointing Euros, drawing twice and winning one of their three games since the tournament. It’s safe to say there is a bit of a weird vibe around the group at the moment.
In order to get a clearer picture with the team we sent some questions to our colleague from Eurosport France, Cyril Morin, to get some answers.

What is going on with the atmosphere around the team?

To start with what is going on with the team? It’s a far cry from the feeling after the World Cup, and they still are world champions.
“Because France was the obvious favourite for Euro,” says Morin. “Still has the best team in the world in my opinion on the paper but was eliminated against Switzerland in the quarters where they were 3-1 up at the 80th minute.
“That’s still a mystery for many of us. How could such a talented team but also experienced team could give away such an advantage?”

Mbappé, Benzema, Griezmann

Image credit: Getty Images

That makes sense. Can that put be put down to the return of Karim Benzema? Or does this fall at the door of manger Didier Deschamps? Or someone else entirely?
“A little bit of everything. Deschamps made too many tactical changes whereas the main force of France was his stability rather than its revolutionary tactics.
“Deschamps never found the right way to deal with Mbappé-Benzema-Griezmann. The last one is an interesting case: he was the leader of the team, his key player in order to shine. But he played on the right, on the left, without much influence whereas he should have been in the middle, making plays for Mbappé-Benzema.
“Because that key trio doesn’t perform neither does France as a whole. And because, as Mbappé mentioned in his interview, France isn’t as strong defensively as in 2018 (maybe because L. Hernandez was down), the struggle is real.”

What about the environment? Is the media at fault?

I put it to Morin whether the media might be at play here or perhaps it’s more down to the environment that has been created by Deschamps?
Here in England we are no strangers to those issues whether it’s the attitude or closed mentality of the team, or the at-time racist way the media covers certain players.

Didier Deschamps

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“To be honest, we don’t have this feeling around the national team,” says Morin.
Quite the opposite. Since 2014 and the arrival of Deschamps, he has managed to create a safe space around the French team.
“You have to remember what happened before DD: the strike of Knysna in 2010, multiple problem players with Nasri, Gallas or Ben Arfa, bad performances, a very boring style and a coach (Domenech) who was seen as public enemy number one at one point.
"Deschamps managed to bring stability, ambition and sympathy around this team. The main point was 2018, of course, where every French person loved their national team. They were just a band of bros trying to achieve their biggest dream and they did it with many characters: Pogba the team leader, Griezmann the happy one off the pitch and decisive one on the pitch, the next big thing with Mbappé, the quiet “chouchou” (favourite) Kanté, the DJ Kimpembe, the captain Hugo Lloris… I mean, people really loved French players.
“But, about Mbappé, opinion started to shift a little as he was becoming bigger. He wasn’t just the fabulous kid anymore and now, he’s more in debate than ever, mostly for people who don’t like PSG. He became a star with everything that comes with it. He has the ego of a champion and some may think he’s arrogant. And his last Euro didn’t approve anything about it.”

Is he right then? Is he being made a scapegoat?

So then does Mbappe have a point with how he’s treated?
“Yes, and no. He was more the symbol of the failure than the scapegoat. Because he missed his penalty but I’m there’s more to it.
“He was seen as a player who claimed influence and power in the French team whereas this team isn’t his team yet. What I mean: with Neymar often injured and Mbappé still playing at the highest level with PSG, he’s one of PSG's leaders, without any doubt. Team plays for him, and that’s normal.

Kylian Mbappé et Didier Deschamps (France)

Image credit: Getty Images

“But with the French national team, he tried to speed things up, asking for penalties, free-kicks… He also responded to Giroud in front of the press whereas it could have been buried more easily but instead he just put oil on the fire again. So people blame him for his will to do everything where it’s not his role. Not yet at least.”
At this stage Morin points out an article written by colleague Maxime Dupuis after the last international break which outlines the issues with Mbappe in the team.
“I just add something else to that article,” Morin says.
“France’s Euros was very bad. Mbappé wasn’t very good (no goals). But he wasn’t the worst, by far. He made differences, created things and was one of the best offensively against Germany or Hungary.”

There’s no chance Mbappe stops playing for France is there?

It seems like a ridiculous question to ask Morin but as we said, these are weird times and vibes, so we thought we’d just reassure ourselves.
“I think we are very far from it. He claimed during his interview his love with France national teams but seems to not understand what his faults are.
“He wished maybe to have more support and that’s normal as he is one of the best players of the team. He said he was hurt after Euro.

METZ, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 22: Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the Ligue 1 Uber Eats match between Metz and Paris Saint Germain at Stade Saint-Symphorien on September 22, 2021 in Metz, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Image credit: Getty Images

“But I think leaving France was never an option for him.
“Maybe playing abroad will help him with dealing with the French environment (even if in Madrid, that is another tricky environment). We will see. But Mbappé is 23 in December, he’s growing up.
“We only knew him as a symbol of success with his phenomenal precocity and also his ability to deal with pressure at such a young age to win the best trophy possible. But he will grow with this failure, that’s for sure.”
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